Congressman Matt Cartwright (PA-08) applauded tonight's final Senate passage of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, bipartisan legislation he sponsored along with Republican Congressman Greg Murphy and Democratic Congressman David Price, both of North Carolina.
Part of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act will now go to the President's desk to be signed into law. Although it will not erase the mistakes made at the oldest U.S. Marine Corps base, it will make it easier for victims to receive financial support for their life-altering injuries.
"After years of commitment to this issue, I am grateful that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle -- including those Senators who voted to advance the bill in June and then flipped their vote against the PACT Act last week - agreed to pass this crucial legislation so that poisoned Camp Lejeune veterans can finally seek justice," said Rep. Cartwright. "The service members who signed up to defend their country and the people who supported them at Camp Lejeune were let down by their government in a big way. Having the Camp Lejeune Justice Act included in the Honoring Our PACT Act is an important step forward to ensure military families, civil servants and contractors can receive the benefits and health care they deserve. As the author of The Camp Lejeune Justice Act, I will continue to advocate on behalf of all military members and their families."
Over a 30-year period spanning the 1950s through the 1980s, thousands of Marines, their families, civilian workers and personnel used government provided tap water that was contaminated with harmful chemicals, found at levels ranging from 240 to 3,400 times the levels permitted by safety standards. These exposures likely increased the risk of cancers, such as renal cancer, multiple myeloma, leukemia and more. It also likely raised their risk of adverse birth outcomes, along with other negative health effects.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act provisions included in the Honoring Our PACT Act will now allow those who were injured as a result of the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune and their family members to file under the Federal Tort Claims Act for fair compensation. This type of claim would already be permitted anywhere else in the United States, but because of a unique provision in North Carolina law, this legislation is necessary for those harmed at Camp Lejeune to finally to seek justice.
"The federal government has a responsibility to care for our veterans, service members, and their families -- but that's not what happened at Camp Lejeune when thousands were exposed to contaminated tap water for decades. Those affected have suffered for far too long, and they deserve justice--including their day in court," said Rep. David Price (NC-04). "I am grateful for the tireless advocacy of Marines and their families, supportive allies, and congressional colleagues that has encouraged us to persevere in getting this deferral of justice corrected. I am proud to see our bill head to the President's desk as a prominent part of Honoring our PACT, a historic package which honors our commitment to those who have served our country."
Although the exact number of Camp Lejeune water contamination victims will never be known, it is estimated that more than a million people were exposed, and more than 500,000 people may have devastating health effects.
"When we send our men and women overseas, we make a promise to care for them when they come home" said Rep. Greg Murphy (NC-03). "We failed our veterans when they were exposed to toxic drinking water at Camp Lejeune, and it is up to us to make it right. Our bipartisan bill, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act eliminates burdensome red tape to ensure that those exposed to toxic chemicals, including servicemembers, Marine dependents, civil servants, and contractors, can receive their day in court. As the proud representative of more than 89,000 veterans, I am honored to lead the effort to make sure our Camp Lejeune community gets the long-overdue care and benefits they've earned. I am relieved to see so much bipartisan support for the Camp Lejeune Justice Act today, and I look forward to having our bill finally become law for families in Eastern North Carolina and across the country."